Weblog: The football punter

Derby v Leeds betting play-off preview

Sky Sports Football/Main Event, 5.15pm Saturday

Leeds have had almost two weeks to come to terms with their failure to win automatic promotion and they can begin the recovery process at Pride Park Stadium by holding Derby to a draw.

Leeds held a three-point advantage over Sheffield United going into the Easter games and were in with great chance of ending their 15-year exile from the Premier League.

But they slipped out of top two with an astonishing 2-1 loss at home to Wigan and were beaten 2-0 at Brentford three days later, leaving their automatic promotion hopes in ruins.

The blows kept raining down on the Whites, who lost Patrick Bamford to a two-match ban when he was found guilty of simulation during the 1-1 draw at home to Aston Villa.

Bamford sat out last Saturday's 3-2 defeat at relegated Ipswich but top scorer Kemar Roofe returned to the starting line-up in Suffolk, handing Marcelo Bielsa a rare piece of good news.

Despite the deluge of setbacks, Leeds are slight favourites to defeat Derby for the third time this season.

Matches between the teams have been one-sided with Leeds winning 4-1 at Pride Park and 2-0 at Elland Road.

However, the mood in the Derby camp should be fairly positive because making the playoffs was the best they could have hoped for.

Frank Lampard's target has always been a top-six finish and that looked a long way off when Derby lost 2-0 at Blackburn just over a month ago, leaving them five points outside of the playoffs with six games remaining.

Derby responded by taking 14 points from a possible 18, sealing the deal with a well-deserved 3-1 victory at home to West Brom last Sunday.

But they had to play at full throttle against the Baggies and sustained a couple of injury setbacks with centre-forward Martyn Waghorn and midfielder Duane Holmes unable to finish the game.

The spying story which broke on the eve of Derby's January defeat at Elland Road was one of the most memorable moments of the Sky Bet Championship season and it exposed Bielsa to a torrent of criticism.

However, it should not overshadow the fantastic work done by Bielsa in transforming the fortunes of one of England's biggest clubs.

Bielsa may not have knowledge of Derby's likely starting side at his fingertips this time, but he will have been working overtime to put a plan in place to get his side's season back on track.

Injuries to first-choice players Ezgjan Alioski, Barry Douglas and Tyler Roberts mean Leeds will be nowhere near full-strength.

But they have a good record against their promotion rivals – winning six, drawing one and losing three against top-six teams – and they can ensure the scores remain level before Wednesday's return match in Yorkshire.



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Match in Focus

19:45 TODAY

Dundalk v FK Qarabag

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Qarabag have score nine goals in their last four matches
Expert verdict
Qarabag are seasoned European campaigners and are likely to find little resistance from Dundalk. The Azerbaijan side eased past Partizani despite a shaky opening away leg, while Dundalk have failed to score in their last four qualifiers and beat Latvian side Riga on penalties to qualify for this encounter.